Lois Pruitt is the director of education at Red Door Urban Missions, a Christian organization that provides social and educational services to children living in low-income communities in Memphis, Tennessee.

Prior to the pandemic, Pruitt had been helping a group of kids ages 5-13 develop their literacy skills through in-person afterschool programming. The majority of her students are Black, and less than 10 percent are reading at grade level.

When the pandemic hit, Pruitt needed to figure out how to provide literacy instruction virtually to students at their yearly summer camp, which took place both in-person and online — and, at the same time, safely care for her 85-year-old mother.

Local apartment owners provided the classroom space and internet access, and a partner organization donated 15 tablets for the kids and several volunteers. Local churches and individuals covered the cost of tables and stools, masks, digital thermometers, gloves and cleaning disinfectant. “We were totally compliant with CDC guidelines,” confirms Pruitt.

The technology solution? BookNook, a platform for synchronous distance or in-person learning that’s now available free to teachers.

“I had no issue whatsoever learning BookNook,” says Pruitt. “I’m 68 years old, but I definitely don’t fit the stereotype of a 68-year-old.”

Forty students — four groups of 10 students each — attended one-hour classes Monday through Thursday for seven weeks. People working as remote reading guides were paired with students reading at a third grade level or above. On-site guides were paired with younger children who needed more in-depth support.

By the end of camp, 30 percent of the students had moved up a grade level in their reading abilities. The antithesis of Covid-slide!

“One of their favorite stories was about Detective LaRue,” says Pruitt. “My brother is a detective, so I’d take pictures of him and share those with the students. That would generate a lot more conversation, and that’s what you want because it allows you to integrate the new vocabulary words. They were quick to say, ‘Hey, that’s one of our vocabulary words!’”

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Learn more about BookNook at https://www.booknooklearning.com.

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